Where did they get this narrator? He could not have been more ill-suited for the role. Voicing a Roman emperor, even one who was an awkward, half-crippled misfit, calls for a modicum of gravitas. This narrator sounds like some guy named Bill from Cleveland or Indianapolis.
I listened to the audiobook of "I, Claudius" and loved the story and the narrator, so I was looking forward to "Claudius the God." Foolishly, I assumed that the narrator of the latter, if not the same person, would be of similar quality, so I didn't listen to the audio sample before purchasing the audiobook. Learn from my mistake.
Daniel Silva can be counted on for an entertaining tale of international espionage, provided your expectations aren't set too high. However, the producers of this audiobook made a gigantic blunder in selecting the narrator. The main action in the story unfolds in Italy, Russia and France, and Mr. Silva liberally sprinkles Italian, Russian and French words, phrases and place names throughout his narrative. Phil Gigante has an uncanny knack for horribly mispronouncing nearly EVERYTHING that isn't in English, and it drove me to distraction. I don't know how the audiobook production process works, but it is clear to me that Mr. Silva was not actively involved. Don't get me wrong -- I don't expect a narrator to know Italian, French and Russian. However, I do think it is reasonable to expect that, if the narrator is unsure how to pronounce a word, he should find out. I won't purchase another audiobook narrated by Mr. Gigante.
David Suchet is incomparable. It is common knowledge that he does a pitch-perfect Poirot, but the man does an equally extraordinary job capturing the whole colorful cast of characters and telling the story in a captivating way. Not that Agatha Christie needs any help in the story-telling department, of course...
This was such an enjoyable listen.
The good: the narrator - not the best, but good. The bad: the plot! If you have read at least a couple of legal thrillers before, you will not be the least surprised when the real killer is unmasked. In fact, categorizing this book as a legal thriller is only 50% accurate. The first-person narrator of the book (not the narrator of the audio recording) becomes ever more unlikeable and pathetic as the snail's-pace plot grinds on. This is partly intentional on the part of the author - a successful criminal defense lawyer sometimes relies on morally repugnant (or at least amoral) tactics. But it is also the result of an inexplicably fierce loyalty between the protagonist and his boyhood friend cum accused murderer - even the lengthy flashback that consumes most of the first half of the book failed to provide an adequate basis for the purportedly inextricable link between the two.
Every scene in which Sherlock Holmes plays an active part is thoroughly enjoyable. However, the sermons/speeches of the main female character other than Mary Russell were too long and incredibly tedious, made even worse by the way in which the narrator drew them out. The first sermon/speech more than adequately demonstrated the strange religious fervor of the character; everything after that was just short of nails on a chalkboard. My other complaint is that the solution to the mystery is practically a non-event. I have read or listened to other Laurie R. King books and enjoyed them much more than I did this one.
Walter Covell's narration bludgeons the life out of the story. He rarely pauses between sentences, so the tempo is flat and uniform. There are few inflections in his voice, and when he does manage them, it sounds as though this is the first time he's read the book because the inflections fail to capture the meaning or tone of the text.
I am not giving up on Arsene Lupin but will henceforth only consider audiobook editions of Leblanc's work that are narrated by others.
The book itself is exactly what mystery readers expect from, and love about, an Agatha Christie novel - multiple murders; sweetly sly Miss Marple; and an expertly crafted plot down to the last detail. She never resorts to pulling a rabbit out of a hat as the solution of the mystery, but rather puts all the necessary clues to solve the crime plainly in the narrative if you are clever enough to appreciate their significance. Of course, even if you manage to catch a few of them, Christie is always two steps ahead. There are multiple layers of red herrings of varying degrees of subtlety, so that while you are patting yourself on the back for spotting one, you are falling for another one hook, line, and sinker.
The narrator is as expert as the writer herself. She gives each character a distinct voice - complete with class-appropriate accent, nuanced tone, and pattern of speech - that makes each character clearly identifiable, but she does it so unobtrusively that it is easy to forget that all of the voices originate from the same person.
The entire listening experience is captivating.
The only flaw is that, as another reviewer noted, there are technical problems with the recording around the middle of the audiobook that convinced me my iPod was malfunctioning.
I purchased this audiobook because it had a rating of four-and-a-half stars. I can't imagine why it was rated so highly. The biggest problem for me was the narrator, whose voice was simultaneously dull and irritating. (The audiobook I had listened to right before this was Agatha Christie's "A Pocket Full of Rye," whose narrator was one of the best I've heard.)
The plot of the book itself was uninspired, with a denouement and unmasking of the culprit that could almost have come from an episode of Scooby Doo. The writing was dated and stale, which cannot be due simply to its having been written in 1914 -- the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie spring to life as easily now as they did when published. The dialog is full of ominous pronouncements that are so ham-fisted that any seasoned mystery reader will immediately recognize them as red herrings. If you buy this audiobook keeping all of this in mind and having set your expectations low, you might be entertained by it, but I doubt it.
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